Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm.

The rise and fall of RIM

BGR’s Jonathan Geller interviews a bunch of ex-RIM executives and comes back with an interesting “inside story” about how RIM missed the boat on the current generation of high-end consumer smartphones.

[RIM Co-CEO] Mike Lazaridis would say that the most ridiculous idea was to name a phone with a marketing-derived name, like the Motorola RAZR. “BlackBerry will never do that, it will always be a model number,” he said to executives. “A BlackBerry with a name is ridiculous.”

“Here we are, as young, brazen people, and we’re just like, ‘Mike, you’re missing out. There’s a trend here; it’s a social and collaborative scene in certain media circles’,” one former executive said, describing the general feeling among other executives at the company. “Now look at what’s happened 4 or 5 years later — an MP3 player, camera, name, all done reluctantly.”

A few years ago, RIM used to announce on its earnings call every quarter what percent of its BlackBerry subscriber base — and new subscriber growth — was “non-enterprise.” It kept inching higher and higher, and eventually it got so high that RIM stopped reporting it. (In late 2009, the last time I can find it disclosed in an earnings call transcript, non-enterprise represented 80% of new BlackBerry subscribers during the prior quarter.) Last year, RIM stopped disclosing how many BlackBerry subscribers it had, period.

So the company was definitely aware that most of its growth was coming from consumer sales — it even told us.

But at the same time, RIM completely stopped being able to meet the demands of the high end of the consumer smartphone market, where Apple was leading the way, and Android has followed. Geller’s piece does a nice job illustrating how that happened. And that’s why the BlackBerry’s market share has been tanking.